Link: GAO Decision
Protestor: SENTEL Corporation
Agency: Department of the Army
Disposition: Protest Denied.
- Protest challenging an agency’s evaluation and selection decision is denied where the record demonstrates that the evaluation and selection decision were reasonable and consistent with the solicitation’s evaluation criteria.
- Protest that agency failed to conduct meaningful discussions is denied where the aspect of the protester’s quotation that was not discussed was not a deficiency or weakness, but reflected an approach that did not receive the maximum rating available.
General Counsel PC Highlight:
SENTEL Corporation protested the issuance to National Technology Associates, Inc. (NTA) of a task order for logistics contractor support services at Navy air fleet readiness centers in California, Maryland, and Virginia. The RFQ, issued to vendors holding GSA Logistics Worldwide Schedule 874V contracts, contemplated award on a best value basis, considering technical approach, personnel, past performance, and price. During discussions, SENTEL was asked to clarify its quotation with respect to its personnel and past performance references, and advised of several evaluated weaknesses concerning specific PWS requirements. In assessing the overall merit of the quotations, the CO concluded that NTA’s superiority under the technical approach and personnel factors outweighed SENTEL’s higher rating under the past performance factor and lower price.
The GAO found no reason to question SENTEL’s acceptable rating under the technical approach factor, relying on a record which showed that the agency recognized SENTEL’s evaluated strengths and lack of weaknesses under this factor, but concluded that its quotation only demonstrated an adequate approach and understanding of the requirements. The GAO pointed out that the agency had noted that none of SENTEL’s evaluated strengths involved the core areas of the PWS, whereas six of NTA’s seven evaluated strengths did involve core areas. The GAO then disagreed that the agency’s evaluation of NTA’s past performance as meriting satisfactory confidence was unreasonable in light of the determination that the experience was only somewhat relevant.
The GAO disagreed with SENTEL that the agency did not conduct meaningful discussions with the protestor, by failing to identify a significant weakness under the technical management factor. It pointed out that the agency merely had a “concern” regarding SENTEL’s failure to provide a detailed description of some of its processes to perform PWS work. The GAO also disagreed that the agency’s source selection decision was not adequately documented and contained “alleged” factual errors which called into question the reasonableness of the decision. Minor misstatements did not cause the GAO to question the agency’s judgment regarding NTA’s past performance or the cost/technical tradeoff.
Disappointed vendors should always request a debriefing so as to better understand the reasoning behind the agency’s evaluation of quotation, as well as to improve preparation of quotations in future procurements. In considering whether to protest, a disappointed vendor should not focus on the number of strengths assigned to its quotation relative to the awardee’s quotation, but rather where those strengths were assigned. Strengths regarding core areas of the PWS will likely receive greater weight by the agency. The assignment of both strengths and weaknesses to the same aspect of a vendor’s quotation will not, in and of itself, sustain a protest.